Neither do you.
A few years ago the Fortune 500 CEOs were all surveyed and ask this question:
“What is your greatest fear?”
The #1 answer – “I’m afraid I will be found out to not know what I’m doing.”
I’ve started seven businesses. None of them have crashed and burned (yet), but I got out of a few because they were bad ideas that weren’t going anywhere, and in some cases barely breaking even. A couple made decent money and grew well, and we sold one to the largest company in that particular industry. Right now we have two businesses growing internationally, one of them on four continents that has the potential of changing the game for small and local business owners worldwide. It grew 392% in the last four years.
So it’s nice to be able to claim a decent track record: to date – so far. And yet I have to be honest and say that when it comes to getting where we want to end up, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m pretty comfortable with that, because I’m just as sure you don’t, either.
Utter Clarity by Groping Our Way to the Light
I do have a pretty sane assessment of where we are (most business owners don’t), and I know with Utter Clarity where we want to end up, but I have no grand plan to get from where we are to where we want to end up a few years from now. The journey is not mapped out and the path ahead is full of Intuitive Guesses yet to be made. It’s not going to be easy, and there is no such thing as going on auto-pilot and watching this business fly itself.
Just like the Fortune 500 CEOs, I’m making this up as I go along. But since I don’t have nervous investors, unlike them, I don’t have to pretend I know what I’m doing. I can say, “I don’t know” out loud.
It’s okay to not know how we’re going to get all the way from where we are to where we want to be. In the real world, business owners don’t become successful by a grand vision, a genius scheme, a fail-safe product, or a five-year business plan (also known as voodoo & fortune telling). As Bill Hewlett of HP said, they had no business plan in the early days when they got moving, they were just being opportunistic and doing whatever they could to grope their way to the light.
As We Go, Not Before – The Intuitive Guess
We will grow this business not by having it figured out, but by figuring it out as we go. We will not get to Utter Clarity by digging a canal, lining it with concrete and floating to our reward, but by a thousand changes in a thousand directions, relentlessly doing whatever we have to, adapting however we must in order to get to our ocean.
All we get to know along the way is where we are, where we want to end up (Utter Clarity), and an Intuitive Guess at what we should do next to get there. And we’ll be “wrong” a lot (we already have been)– that’s how we’ll find out what we should really be doing. We’ll get our maps when we’re done, just like any explorer.
You’re going to do it the same way. Welcome to building a business. Stop trying to figure out HOW to get all the way from where you are to where you want to be. Know exactly where you are, and get Utter Clarity about where you intend to end up, then make one short-range decision that you think might help you get to the end game. Take the feedback the world will give you from making that decision, and do it all over again.
A Thousand Little Hows, Not One Big How
Don’t waste time trying to figure out how you’ll get all the way from where you are to where you want to be – as if there is one big “how” that would answer that. Get Utter Clarity about where you want to go, then be comfortable asking a thousand little “hows” along the way to get there. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You just have to know where you’re going. That’s enough. Anything more would spoil the adventure anyway.
Three magic words: “I don’t know”.
Use them often. They will guide you to the next little “how”, and all the way to where you want to be.